Behind the scenes (spoiler alert - read at your own risk)
The Triple-Date Dare
The crabbing date. Yes, this was me, perched on the bow of the little boat along the rock jetty at Depoe Bay, Oregon in the summer of 1985. Boy that was a long time ago! My husband and I were just married and we were crabbing with his father and his father's cousin. The part where the first crab ring was teeming with oodles of baby crabs was real and I truly thought about jumping into the water except for the fact that all the little crabs were being tossed in one after another. We laugh about it now, but at the time, I wasn't sure eating crab was worth the effort. My husband pulls crab rings like David did, and is rarely skunked. Now, after all these years, we still head to the Oregon coast to go crabbing.
The shooting date. We are a family of shotgun enthusiasts. But it is our daughter who out-shot her father's friends when she was included in an afternoon excursion. I always loved re-telling the story of how surprised those grown men were when our little 17-year old ruled the day.
The couple approaching David and Laura's quiet moment in the International Rose Test Garden in Portland. Back in the day, going to the Rose Garden was a pretty romantic way to end a date and we discovered this little bench surrounded by trees which, in the evening, provided a wonderful, dark place to steal a kiss. Once while we were dating, we were enjoying the privacy of that little cove when another couple started to walk our way. When we realized they were headed right for us, my husband (who was only my boyfriend at the time) cleared his throat and said, "Good evening." The other couple truly looked like they had been confronted by the boogey-man and ran for their lives. We still laugh about that. I would love to hear their version of the story...
The driftwood sculpture. This was an art my father-in-law perfected, although he didn't sell his pieces. We are privileged to have many of his wood sculptures in our home and I always admired the way each piece spoke to different people differently.
The Spirit of Christmas
I love the story of A Christmas Carol, and always wished Ebeneezer Scrooge could have found more than the Christmas spirit, but love, too. After Christmas one year, the idea came to me for a modern-day Scrooge and his executive assistant, and how the three 'spirits' of Christmas could bring them together.
The cover design came from a cropped close-focus image of my own Christmas tree, complete with lots of lights and tinsel. For the most part, my own decorating is simple, but I go all out on the Christmas tree every year. It was exciting to see my own tree as a book cover!
Kathryn's plate of holiday cookies came from our own Christmas tradition to share cookies and treats with our neighbors and friends at the holidays. Chocolate chip are always the favorite, even though they aren't really Christmas-y. I can remember days when our table was filled with paper plates wrapped in saran waiting for the evening when they would be delivered.
Sometimes, supporting characters get a little lost in the shuffle of the main story. My editor pointed out to me that although we know Justin, Elizabeth's husband, to be a good guy, we don't have any idea what he's going through as he sees his wife's health decline. I hope the little snippit of Justin shoveling the driveway alone gives my readers a little introspection on Justin's need to process what's happening in his life by doing that physical activity by himself.
When there's water in a story, someone always falls in. When there's painting, someone always ends up with paint on their clothing or somewhere on their skin. When there's snow, there is always a snowball fight. And usually, there's a stolen kiss, too. I couldn't help the snowball fight while Kathryn, George and the children were building their snowmen. But the kids couldn't let George steal a kiss...
The fairy house. So many of our children have lost the art of imagination. I needed Maggie and Caroline to let us see what could be achieved with a little shoe box, a few markers, and a clothespin.
As a salute to Charles Dickens, all the characters in this novel have old-fashioned names.
Building a Life
My husband, a builder by trade, built two houses for us during the writing and revision process of this book. To make sure I had the facts right, I would sometimes stop him in the middle of working on our house to clarify details.
Nick's two soccer goals in the book were taken directly from my son's high school soccer experience as a center forward. Nick's love of the game beyond high school and college stemmed from my husband's experience playing on a city league when we were dating.
Nick's neglected drafting table in his home office was a salute to my late father-in-law who was a professional draftsman before the days of computer aided drafting programs.
Nick getting beat up was a complete surprise until the day I wrote the scene. In my notes and outline, there was no mention of Nick being attacked. When the story headed that direction, I followed along, interested in seeing where it would go. I was impressed by how well it fit into the story.
I didn't dwell on the many opportunities for complications during the birth of Sara's baby, but the part where she held Nick's hand and squeezed it so hard she almost broke his fingers happened for real during the birth of my second child. It was my first natural delivery and my husband shook out his hand and offered two fingers for me to squeeze instead so I wouldn't hurt him. It's amazing how much strength a woman has when delivering a baby!
Nick and Josh's experience with the welcoming attitude of people in the LDS church when they were investigating various churches was much like every ward I've ever visited or moved into. I wanted to show the openness that the church demonstrates to people who are new.
When Sara described Nick's maneuvering in the trusses as a slow dance, it was exactly how I feel watching my husband when he sets trusses on a house. When the crane operators know what they're doing, it can be as smooth as I made it sound and just as riveting.
Nick's smile is a direct correlation to Josh Turner's smile on the cover of his album Haywire. It's a breathtaking sight to behold and truly swoon-worthy! (Or you can watch the video of Josh's song Firecraker for more of that Hollywood smile!)
Daisies in the Driveway
Several years ago, my husband and I thought it might be fun to run a small hotel. It didn't work out, but I did a bit of investigating before the deal fell through. I know it's tons of work, but it still sounds kind of fun to me. So, instead, the B&B was born for this story.
Originally, Ally wasn't supposed to know anything about cooking or baking and her mishaps in the kitchen were going to be terribly elementary. But, with the help of my early readers, I was cautioned that wasn't too realistic. So, instead, Ally just messed up with her baking. As research, I practiced the turnovers in my own kitchen and although I'm a kitchen veteran of three decades, it wasn't as easy as I thought! I might not have tried to burn down the house, but it showed me that Ally, who didn't have any experience, would have certainly struggled with the task. I think my family was a little sad when I stopped researching...uh, baking.
All the problems at the campground were based on actual events either while my husband was a scout leader or from his family history. His sister and her friend were the ones who sprayed white gas on the fire to get it going quicker and ended up burning down their campsite. The scout who burned up his tent was from my husband's business partner's scout troup, when camping in the mountains. The little scout calmly woke his leader to inform him of the fire. Even the sailing excursion was based on a scout activity at Bear Lake, Utah. The storm came up suddenly. The scouts were taken back to camp. Some of them swam to shore, but the rest were rescued after the storm passed. It wasn't quite the same in the book, but definitely the inspiration.
The floor-writing party at the end was also based on real life. In three of the eight houses we've built, we've had floor-writing parties. It's fun to see what friends and family will say to you before it's all covered up with flooring or carpet. The installers in our first house said they couldn't begin work for an hour and a half because they had to read everything before they laid the carpet! It's a fun tradition.
Rock My World
I'm not really sure where this story came from. Probably one of those characters that tapped on my shoulder and asked me to write their story. I liked the idea of the name confusion and Julianna being called Junior in her childhood. Her personality developed over time for me and I loved her inability to keep her temper and language in check and the constant apologies to Mama. Unlike other stories, the plot line came together as the story was written. However, when I first started writing, I got stumped about 42,000 words in and walked away to work on other projects. When I finally got back to it, years had passed, and as I re-read what I had written so far, I got to the previous stumbling block and thought, "Wait! I want to see this to the end!" After some thought and consideration, the obstacle was eliminated and I finished the manuscript in just over a week. The funny thing was, I didn't know anything about the plot points that finished the story when I was writing it before. I guess I needed that time for it to percolate.
The house remodel was a no-brainer for me, having lived through reconstruction once (which was enough). I'm sure I skidded over much of the details involved in such a complete renovation, and I was sad that all their hard work went up in smoke. Sometimes life is like that. Since it brought Julianna and J.R. back together, though, it was totally worth it.
There are times when stories write themselves. Other authors will tell you the same thing and this story was no different. Julianna's self-imposed penitance of holding babies at the hospital came out of nowhere, but fit so well with her disposition and true remorse. The subject of abortion is a touchy one and I have heard many stories and opinions on both sides of the issue. Julianna's choice didn't surprise me since she had no background in morality and no support in her life. Taking the life of her unborn child didn't fully impact her until after the deed. It was important to me to write that side of the issue: the woman who may have made a different decision under different circumstances and with a different understanding. I hope it came across the way it was intended.
The fire was also unexpected. I remember saying to myself, "What? The house burned down? After all their work?" But it needed to happen. As a writer, we can treat our characters a little like puppets, pulling the strings of the story. Yet there are times when we are the marrionettes and the story is pulling the strings. It's actually quite fun.
A Cookie and a Kiss
Charlotte and Elliott are two of my favorite characters. With permission, Charlotte is a lot like my daughter, Amy. The teacher, the tap-dancer, the drama coach, the pianist, and the debate coach. These are only some of Amy's talents and I loved spotlighting them in Charlotte (whose name is also the name of one of Amy's best friends). The way Charlotte connected with her students and the cute little phrases like, "Glad we had this chat," and "It's a real thing," all came from Amy's vernacular. I only wish I was writing non-fiction and Elliott was real, too!
The claustrophia Charlotte came to grips with was a real thing in my world. The submarine incident happened to me in my early 30s when I visited the sub at OMSI. I loved the movie, and I was determined to go on the tour, even though the thought petrified me. I made it, though, with the help of my husband and a loving friend who was visiting at the time. The idea of making a scene also kept me fighting for control, but boy, was I glad to get off that boat!
Elliott and Kelly's craftsman-style childhood home was one I found for sale in Spokane while doing a bit of research on the city. Thank goodness for multiple-listing photos that showed me how it looked in the fall. I think, if I had been house shopping for real, it would have been one on my list to look at.
The villian of the piece, Krista, originally had a co-conspirator, but together, their motivation was weak and my editor suggested making a change. When I did, the other person disappeared, and Krista's background came to light. I loved that she turned out to be Charlotte's half-sister! Another one of those plot points that write themselves...
The original end of the book wasn't Charlotte and Elliott's wedding reception, but what has become the prologue to Kelly and Brandon's story. My editor suggested it and suddenly, those two were going to grow up a little and have a story of their own. A Cookie and a Promise was born as well as a series. More on that as the new book develops!
Writing about all the cookies Elliott and Kelly made got to me and there were times when I just had to stop and bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies before I could write some more. Subliminal advertising? As I work on Kelly's story in the next book in the series, I'll need to be strong not to succumb!